The Curious Case of Oliver Ward

Follow the detective work that went into Special Collections and Archives’ “Glimpses of the Great War” exhibit.

By Kris Gallagher

University Archivist Andrea Bainbridge discovered a mystery while paging through a 1922 volume of the Minerval, an early DePaul student newspaper. She spotted the text of a Mass recited by the Rev. Ferdinand “Joe” Ward, C.M. (AB ’15), at the funeral of his brother, Oliver. (In DePaul’s early days, a bachelor’s degree was called an AB, the abbreviation for the Latin phrase “artium baccalaureus.”)

“It was really interesting that they were having the funeral in 1921 when [Oliver] was killed in 1918,” she recalls. “I entered the surname ‘Ward’ into our digital database, the Heritage Collections, and hits started popping up all over the place.”

She turned to census records and Ancestry, an online genealogical database. She discovered an entire family of Wards: eight brothers, seven of whom graduated from DePaul; a sister, Marguerite, who worked for the dean of the College of Commerce; their mother, also named Marguerite, who sponsored social events for the parish and neighborhood; and their father, whose company supplied construction materials to the fledgling institution. Not only were they all related, but they figured prominently in DePaul’s early history.

Bainbridge realized that the Ward family provided a unique framework to tell the story of DePaul before, during and after the Great War 100 years ago. Two years in the making, the “Glimpses of the Great War” exhibit  was underway.

Library assistant Lisa Geiger quickly found a paper trail. Patriarch Albert J. Ward was first co-owner and later sole owner of Edwards & Ward Stone and Granite Works, located just west of DePaul “at the Fullerton Avenue Bridge,” as described in newspaper ads.

“The Ward family had a stone masonry business. We have receipts and work orders for them contributing material to the College Theater [better known as the Barn] and the Lyceum in 1907,” Geiger says. Those buildings are now gone, but the Wards also supplied stone for one structure that’s still standing—Peter V. Byrne Hall, home to the departments of Philosophy and Physics.

It’s possible that oldest sons Harold (AB ’10) and Eugene (AB ’10) worked on these buildings, Geiger says: “This family physically built the university.”

The Ward brothers had an equally outsized impact on campus life, Bainbridge discovered. They co-founded one of DePaul’s first fraternities, the now-defunct Alpha Chi, and period yearbooks and newspapers made frequent references to “inscrutable fraternity in-jokes,” she says. Several brothers, especially Joe, were standout members of the football team, while William (AB ’12) was the team manager. At a time when enrollment was about 300 students, the Wards were hard to miss on campus.

They and their classmates were among the first to enjoy a mixed-student life and social events at DePaul. The university began admitting women in 1911, and the College Theater was the first place big enough to hold a dance. Says Bainbridge, “The co-ed culture really blossomed in that period.”

But life at DePaul was about to change. The Great War—World War I—was underway.

Off to War

In addition to Oliver, who enlisted before he enrolled at DePaul, four of the Ward brothers—Harold, Cyril (AB ’14), Albert (AB ’15) and Robert (AB ’18)—signed up. Meanwhile, DePaul agreed to host a federal Student Army Training Corps.

Cyril (AB ’14) and Albert (AB ’15) Ward are seated at the far left, center row, in this photo of the 1912 varsity football team. In the front row center is Ferdinand “Joe” Ward (AB ’15), who went on to become a member of the Congregation of the Mission. Photo credit: DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives

“The corps was a way to combine classroom and physical training and for the war department to utilize college facilities across the country,” Geiger says. Soldiers drilled on the open field south of St. Vincent de Paul Church, and the College Theater was converted into barracks.

The Rev. Francis McCabe, C.M., DePaul’s third president, encouraged young men to enlist “for the glory of God” and promised that the university would remain open during the war. His predecessor, the Rev. John Martin, C.M., already was posted in France as a chaplain. Overall, 584 students, faculty members and alumni of DePaul served in the war.

The bimonthly Minerval kept track of them through a “roll of honor” telling where individuals were deployed, which would have been impossible in later eras when DePaul was larger, Bainbridge says. “Because of all the personal connections and the small scale of the school in the 1910s, we can get a comprehensive look at who was serving.”

It also was easier keeping track of DePaulians abroad because the United States’ participation in the Great War was relatively brief—just 17 months. But not brief enough for some.

From Soldier to Saint

Oliver Ward was interred three times. The first burial was near where he died during the Battle of the Argonne Forest, killed at the headquarters of the 108th Ammunition Train when an explosive shell struck it on Oct. 8, 1918. The next year, his remains were moved to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. The exhibit includes an image of the cemetery that Bainbridge found on the Library of Congress website. Then, in the National Archives, she found a copy of Albert Ward’s telegram asking that his son’s remains be sent home.

This cross marks where Oliver Ward was buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France, the second time he was interred. Photo credit: The Library of Congress

“How does a family in Lincoln Park, especially a very religious family, grieve when somebody in their family is killed thousands of miles away?” Bainbridge asks. For the Wards, it was just as important that Oliver’s body be brought home for burial in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Ill., as it was that their sons did their sacred duty by enlisting.

The religious underpinnings of military service also explain the letter that Oliver’s brother Albert sent to one of his professors.

“Wasn’t it glorious news about Oliver?” Albert wrote from his posting. “I wish I were in his place. Just think, Father, a saint as well as a soldier!” Albert himself was killed June 22, 1919.

Harold, Cyril and Robert survived the war and returned to Chicago, where Harold became a prominent judge. Eugene entered the family business, while Cyril became a salesman. Both William and Joe joined the Congregation of the Mission. They spent the war in the Vincentian seminary in Perryville, Mo., and were ordained in time to preside over their brothers’ funerals.

Fr. William became principal of DePaul Academy, the high school affiliated with the university that all eight Ward brothers attended, before being transferred to Los Angeles. Fr. Joe became an English professor at DePaul and later served as alumni coordinator until he retired in the 1960s.

The Rev. Ferdinand “Joe” Ward, C.M., front row center, spent his career at DePaul as a professor and alumni coordinator. Photo credit: DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives

DePaul flourished after the war. Enrollment doubled within a few years. Although the government didn’t provide any educational benefits to veterans, DePaul chose to sponsor at least one veteran every year—a precursor to the university’s current status as a Yellow Ribbon university. As a participant in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, DePaul provides veterans with tuition assistance and support services, including those offered through Veteran Student Services.

History Made Visible

“Glimpses of the Great War” is on display on the first floor of the John T. Richardson Library on the Lincoln Park Campus through the end of 2017. Like the story of the Ward family, the exhibit is full of detail because Fr. William’s and Fr. Joe’s personal papers are in the DeAndreis-Rosati Memorial Archives, the Vincentian archives housed at DePaul.

“One of my favorite things about this exhibit is that we pulled from university records, we pulled from Vincentian records, we pulled from [Lincoln Park] community records, we pulled from our rare books and I used databases available through the library. My archivist geek heart is really excited about that,” Bainbridge says. “That’s the fun of detective work. Look what you can discover when you really dig in!”

The Things They Carried

The More Military Field Manuals Change, the More They Stay the Same

The Ward brothers who fought in World War I all carried an American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Field Service Pocket Book like the one displayed in “Glimpses of the Great War.”

The 100-year-old book is both surprisingly similar to and strikingly different from the field manual used by Jordan Lopez (LAS ’17), when he was deployed in Afghanistan. University Archivist Andrea Bainbridge invited Lopez, then a liaison in Veteran Student Services at DePaul, to compare the fragile old manual with the digital version he used. Here are some of their favorite entries:

Homing Pigeons
During the Great War, soldiers used homing pigeons to get information across the battlefield—in fact, a pigeon named Cher Ami is credited with saving nearly 200 men. The AEF manual details the care, feeding and use of the birds. Modern forces don’t use homing pigeons, but they do describe the use of another no-tech option: a runner.

“If the technology fails, which it does, especially in mountainous areas with little satellite coverage, this guy is going to have to run to the next post,” says Lopez.

Meals on the Hoof
In 1918, companies of soldiers were sent a live cow, pig or goat every few days. “Their manual describes how to kill, prepare and cook it. For us, they just give us a box of food,” Lopez says. But modern soldiers receive one item with every meal that AEF forces didn’t have—a little bottle of hot sauce.

Communicating with people back home boosts morale, then and now, Lopez says. Some World War I combatants might never have sent a letter before, let alone from a foreign country, so they needed directions. All mail had to go through Army censors, Bainbridge adds. One of Oliver Ward’s letters in the exhibit was censored by his older brother and superior officer, Harold (AB ’10).

Clothing Allowance
A century ago, American soldiers received about $35 a year to maintain their uniforms and shoes, compared to about $500 a year today. The allowance has changed, but one thing hasn’t, says Lopez with a laugh—“those guys who take the check and go spend it on something useless, then can’t afford to replace their uniform when it rips.”

The Constants
Map reading. Acronyms and abbreviations. Foot washing. Marching. Weapon cleaning. First aid. Bunk making. Putting on your pants starting with your left leg. Doing everything to the left first. Some entries are identical, Lopez says. The logic behind the detailed directions for mundane tasks? “When you’re under fire, you need instinct and muscle memory to take over,” he says.

Unwritten Rules
Both Bainbridge and Lopez chuckled over the printed “unwritten rules” in the AEF manual, but that section is important, Lopez says.

“These aren’t rules that can be enforced, but they tell soldiers how to conduct themselves in the fog of war,” he explains. For example, one rule says soldiers should be chivalrous.

“When you’ve captured a prisoner, you assume that they’re these evil people, but after they sit there for a while, you realize … they’re just as scared as you would be in that situation. The unwritten rules help you make moral judgments,” he says.

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